new haven, ct

31 MARCH 2009


The God of Westward Expansion
The Goddess of Second Chances  
The God of Nostalgia
The Goddess of Brief Encounters
The God of Simple Vision

About Jeff Mock



the god of westward expansion

A boy with a gun tucked in the back of his jeans
Throws pebbles at a window.  Inside, a girl
Stubs out her smoke, grabs her bag, clambers out
The window and down the trellis.  Even at dawn,

These loose-hinged homes sag with death-row fatigue.
Beneath their clamp-down roofs, a million mild
Bags of bones play out the one narrative
They know: get born, get screwed, get dead.  Get it?

This girl and boy have seen it, seen their parents
Become nothing at all, invisible—
So wore-down, they’re see-through.  All civilized
With nowhere worthwhile to go.  Uncles, aunts,

Sisters, and brothers stumble to work and struggle
Back home.  And those homes grow empty even as
The families butter their morning toast.  So now,
these two are mine.  It’s time to steal a car,

Stick up a gas station, and shoot out the streetlights
On the drive out, out of town, out of control,
Out to the big wild spaces of America.
Whatever they want is theirs.  No cop,

No priest, no father’s belt or boss’s rasp,
No spirit cramped by bit and bridle, no
Whip hand of governance.  If you don’t want
To go, then stay out of their way.  At the edge

Of town, the boy lets rip a sharp war whoop
And the girl puts a bullet through the O
Of the last stop sign.  They’re in high-redemption mode.
Salvation lies ahead, and the freeway burns

Beneath their speed.  This is how it feels,
Such wilderness savaging the tethered heart,
Revving you up until you skid out of control,
Absolute and naked and human at last.



the goddess of second chances

So your big-top has
collapsed, your dam has

burst, your last match
has fizzled in the rain.  Still,

my puppet, these woods are purely
splashed with centuries of sunshine,

and the path you’re on sometimes
circles back, although

sometimes to a place so familiar
you know you’ve never ever

been there before.
What luck, eh?  You may even

circle back and come upon
your younger, more hopeful

self, the one who
didn’t yet know

that you’d fail for the one most
excellent reason of them all:

because you simply must.
The rest is now up to you.

Of course you may try
yet again, and will,

even if you must try
at something else.  Every

second chance looks
exactly like a shredded document

—until you tape it all
back together.  Oh,

my puppet, my sweet, my eternal
poster child, stop

believing in luck.  Luck
does not exist,

but you do.  Every chance
you take is a second chance.

Or third.  Don’t ever
quit fucking up.



the god of nostalgia

Dig through the flea market, the card-
board boxes and the
milk crates:
find there a little
girl playing foursquare, a cute boy
on the bus to grade-
school, all
the flowers blooming
bright and amazed down in the base-
ment dankness, down where
dim is
as light as it gets,
as if sunlight—anything like
clarity—is too
much, is
simply far too much,
for any such sweet, strange, satin-
petaled, hot, hot-house
this third-grade cut-up
glued to its green pipe-cleaner stem.



the goddess of brief encounters

In martini bars and basement rec rooms and midnight
                        Coffee shops, deep in the red
                                                            Shag carpet
And leather sofas, people dream—a searing static
                        Crazy in their brains.  Tiers of scented
                                                            Candles cast
Scales of light onto satin walls.  True to their instincts,
                        They come, the brightly perky neighbors,
                                                            The dappled velvet

Women, the little boy-men, they who have yet
                        To meet and please.  Their metabolic fires
                                                            Stoked, their skins

Like poured geometry, they sustain a meditation on coiled connection.
                        The allure of erectile fangs and meat
                                                            And compromising postures

Can’t be touched by love or reason.  Sensation thrashes
                        And rattles with promise.  A flick of the tongue
                                                            Tests the undulatory

Wiggle of each passing tail.  The candles
                        Burn low and burn up.
                                                            Touch is current

And currency, the flash of blue electric stars as a hand
                        Slips along the ribs and climbs
                                                            The spine, the static

Flash of flesh on flesh that fires and satisfies.  The mind
                        Twines round the need to glide
                                                            And kink and knot:

These women and men fine tune their hunting strategies,
                        How one moment to be predator
                                                            And prey the next,

How to writhe beneath and how to writhe above,
                        How to conquer and to submit.  This is
                                                            Celebration, this feasting,
This skin shedding, this beauty.  This passionate coiling—the sweeter
                        Side of serpenthood—electrifies their every
                                                            Dream of snakes.



the god of simple vision

Complexity blurs the silhouettes of everything,
Even on a grand scale: you may, from a distance,

Mistake a sassafras leaf for all
Of North America.  You may mistake it
For the mashed peas your mother served you

Before you knew right from wrong.
You may mistake it for the guard who all night

Paces the watchtower and scans
The borderlands.  One man’s stranger
Is another man’s threat.  Some

Unlucky victims, it’s true, are more
Unlucky than others.  And while Heaven does not

Belong in the realm of politics, you may mistake
A sunflower for your Lord Jesus Christ
Walking, arms outstretched, toward you through

The Electoral College and perfumed gardens
Of America.  It is simple, really: nothing

Outside is inside.  You may not be of two
Minds, not when just a modicum
Of grade-school theology will direct

Your every step to the midway where you’ll find
The con artists and carnival tricks

And moral flag-waving, the lurching
Haze.  Every stranger is a shadow
On your heart.  Subtract charity and you all

Come to your Lord less than equal—
You are separate.  Across the gulf of difference,

The grief of other victims is authentic
And utterly strange.  Their grief cannot
Touch you, nor their love.  So love gives out

And is merely a funeral without a body,
Which you may well mistake for a miracle.



is the author of a chapbook, Evening Travelers (Volans Press, 1994), and a guidebook for beginning writers, You Can Write Poetry (Writer’s Digest Books, 1998), and Ruthless (winner of the Three Candles Press Open Book Award, to be published this December).  His poems appear in The Atlantic Monthly, Cincinnati Review, Connecticut Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, New England Review, The North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West, Shenandoah, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.  He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife, Margot Schilpp, and their daughters, Paula and Leah.